TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has said there’s “growing confidence” that a Covid-19 vaccine will be available in the first half of next year.
ut he warned that until that happens it will be a “game of cat and mouse” with the virus that will mean local restrictions for some parts of the country.
There is growing concern over the rise in infections in Dublin and the Cabinet is to meet tomorrow to decide on additional restrictions for the Capital.
They will consider new rules about visitors to a person’s home as well as whether or not to allow pubs in Dublin that don’t serve food to open from September 21.
The Government is also finalising its medium term plan for ‘Living with Covid’ which is also due to be published tomorrow.
Mr Varadkar was speaking as he launched new grants for small businesses impacted by Covid-19 at the K-Leisure Centre in Naas.
He was asked about the deliberations for new Covid-19 measures in Dublin where he said the situation is “worrying”.
Mr Varadkar left open the possibility of localised restrictions of the kind seen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly for Dublin.
He was asked if such local measures would become normal elsewhere in the country in the months ahead.
Mr Varadkar said that phase of responding to the pandemic is trying to suppress the virus while opening the economy, schools and colleges.
“That in some ways is a game of cat and mouse and that does mean local restrictions of different levels being turned on and off for the next couple of months.”
However, he added: “There is hope on the horizon, a lot of progress is being made in terms of the vaccine.
“And I think there’s growing confidence that in the first half of the new year, we’ll be in a position to vaccinate older people, those most at risk and healthcare workers.
“That could change things, and change things for the better.
“But where we are at the moment I think we’re going to be for the next six months at least unfortunately,” Mr Varadkar added.
He said any additional restrictions for Dublin will be decided upon tomorrow.
Mr Varadkar added: “The truth is the situation in Dublin is worrying. We’ve seen a situation where the incidence of the virus was as low as five or six per 100,000 over 14 days and now it’s hitting about 80.
“Depending on how you count it a 10 or 20 fold increase in the incidence of the virus in Dublin in the space of a few weeks.
“And while that has not yet resulted in a dramatic increase in people in hospital or ICUs or deaths, the truth is that it’s probably going to head that way if we don’t get on top of it.
“We watch what’s happening in Madrid and in Spain, and we don’t want to go there.”
He added: “There is an opportunity to… flatten the curve again in Dublin. We’ll like to make a decision as a Government tomorrow as to what mixed of additional restrictions will be required in the Capital.”
Asked specifically about pubs reopening he reiterated that the decision will be made by Cabinet tomorrow.
He said: “what I can say is that based on data, based on the evidence the situation in Dublin is markedly different from the rest of the country. And that will require a different response.”
On the possibility of the kinds of restrictions on people’s travel seen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly last month Mr Varadkar said he would be cautious of describing what happened in the three counties as a lock-down.
He said use of that word is reminds him of April and May when the schools were closed and people were limited to distances of tow or five kilometres from their homes.
“We’re not considering that for any part of the country at the moment”. He said such measures would be level five in the Government’s new plan.
Mr Varadkar added: “I do think that some regions and some counties are going to see local restrictions like the ones that were seen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly.
“The good news about that is they worked, and those restrictions were eased and released after a few weeks.
“So, the message I think to any county that may be heading into additional restrictions like Dublin, for example, is that if we work together, if we remember the three W’s [washing hands, wearing a face covering and watching distance from others], we can get on top of it.”